This is not a highly spiritual or emotionally charged message.
Yes....emotions are involved.
Yes....I did a lot of praying.
But....this is more of a narrative kind of thing to simply preserve a lovely and unique experience (and to hopefully remind my children--years down the road--that I truly deserve a REALLY NICE nursing home).
Last Monday the kids and I drove down to Arkansas to hop on a plane to NYC.
My aunt and cousins live there and we hadn't seen them in 4 years.
It was time.
WAY past time...actually.
We had an uneventful and awesome direct flight into LaGuardia where we rented a car and drove out to their place on Long Island.
I would like to post
(and probably will later)
about the super fun we had up there....
How great it was to see the 10 cousin kids melt into a crazy perfect romper-room-esque playground.
How fantastic it was to just sit and chat with my cousins and my aunt....
How beautiful it was for us to sing the songs my grandfather had taught us
How emotional it was to see the damage that Sandy had done to their community....
How inspiring it was to see the "Rebuild the Beach" signs up all over.
I would like to post about that....but if I'm to describe our little jaunt home....I simply do not have time in this post.
(But it was really truly awesome!)
On Wednesday we said our goodbyes and drove back to our hotel.
Thursday morning we got up super early and drove into the city.
By "city" I mean the place where people honk and scream (instead of wave) and yell not-so-nice-words at your 13 year old when he accidentally bumps their girlfriend as he's gawking at sky scrapers.
We went up to the top of the Empire State Building
and did a quick tour of Times Square,
then hopped back into the rental car and drove to the airport.
We got there PLENTY early (you're welcome Dad!) for our 5:50 DIRECT FLIGHT back to Arkansas.
We relaxed and ate and shopped for chintzy souvenirs and I even managed to keep from saying a word I learned in "the city" when my offspring dumped a large root beer on my cloth carry-on and all of its contents.
At 5:15 the gate agent asked us to gather our things and climb on a bus (yeah I said bus) which would shuttle us out to our plane.
We climbed on and we shuttled
to a plane sitting NO WHERE NEAR a runway.
...a little mystified as to why we couldn't have walked from the stairs to the plane...
and proceeded to sit there with the door open for 30 minutes.
A flight attendant informed us that the pilot was delayed on another late flight and we had to wait for him before we took off.
Good idea, I suppose.
40 minutes later
(and don't tell me they didn't know the pilot wasn't available when they bussed us away from the gate they apparently needed for another flight)
the pilot arrived.
He got the door shut and began taxiing.
He told us we had to wait in line to leave because there was so much bad weather that flights were "trickling up" and it would take a while.
Two hours later (yeah I said two) the pilot informed us that no flights could leave to the west or south.
That's sort of where Arkansas is located.
BUT....said pilot man....there was a possibility of flying north for a bit and then going south.
However....this would necessitate a fuel stop somewhere along the way because now we were running low due to sitting on the ground for over three (yeah I said three) hours.
Ummm....not so Ok.
My kids' entertainment devices had run out of batteries.
I was running low on sanity.
The plane was actually rocking on the runway due to high winds in the New York area.
I could see nasty storms on the radar on my phone (which was loosing battery power rapidly).
We had been on the plane for 3.5 hours and IF we flew we wouldn't arrive until after midnight where I still faced over an hour drive home.
I pressed the little stewardess button.
I nicely stated that, if she wouldn't mind, I would appreciate her telling the captain that my vote was to go back to the terminal and try again the next day.
She smiled and said we would know in the next 15 minutes if we were flying.
30 minutes later the pilot informed us that,
due to the HUGE LIGHTNING BOLTS STRIKING ALL AROUND US,
we were taxiing back to the terminal.
We taxied back to the "bus stop" and ran through the pouring rain to the terminal.
We were told we could "hang around the gate" in hopes that the flight would eventually take off...
Or we could rebook for the next day and go....somewhere else.
It was 10:30pm.
It was really stormy.
My kids were beat.
I was beyond beat.
We were out of there.
I asked at the desk about a flight for the next day.
"We have a 7am to Arkansas but it's full."
"But we have space on the 3:25!"
And my 3 offspring.
"No way. That won't work. I only have two seats."
"We don't have anything else available for tomorrow."
I decided to take my kids out of that particular level of hell and call the airlines later.
When the pilot finally decided to go back to the airport I managed to shoot RH a text asking him to find us a hotel room.
Then my phone died.
Awesome RH had booked us a hotel (in Manhattan because everything around the airport was booked).
We found a cab and taxied our way back into the city....
found the hotel...
ate the bagels we'd gotten for RH and carefully packed in our bag...
and the kids collapsed.
I crept into the bathroom and called the airline.
Again I was told there were no flights for all of us into Arkansas.
I told them I was willing to fly out of LaGuardia, JKF, or even Newark.
I told them I was willing to fly into Springfield, Kansas City, or Tulsa.
I told them I could even do Dallas and rent a car home.
Except it connected through SAN FRANCISCO and didn't arrive until after midnight the next day.
So I hung up and tried not to cry.
Then I pulled up my trust Expedia app.
Found a flight the next day at 3:50 into St Louis.
I can drive home from St Louis!
I called the airline back and they confirmed that all four of us could go to St. Louis the next day.
The next morning we packed our things (including the bagels) and set out to explore New York.
As we found cleanish clothes I discovered that a certain nameless child had opened a $30 dollar "Multi-port charger" from our mini-bar to "just see it."
I managed again not to repeat the word I had learned from the mad New Yorker the prior day....and packed the lovely 30 dollar souvenir into my carry on.
We left our bags at the front desk and caught a cab to Central Park.
It was awfully pretty....and
For exactly 1.5 hours.
We had to get back to the hotel then to meet the car service to get to the airport.
I thought it would be easy to find a cab around Central Flippin' Park.
20 minutes later a taxi finally stopped and we climbed in.
When I told him where we wanted to go he said something like,
"Theese ezzz one waay street. I no go theeere. You geeet out my cab."
And I, certain I had misunderstood, repeated the name of our hotel with my sweetest most innocent smile I could muster.
And he started yelling at me.
"I NO GO THEEERE! YOU GO OTHER STREEET. GO! GEEET OUT!!"
We got out.
And I smiled at the kids and told them what a NICE man that was to give us instructions like that!
And we finally found another cab.
And we got back to the hotel.
And we got the car service.
And we headed for the airport.
And my phone "ding-a-linged" with a message.
"This is your airline. Your flight to St Louis has been cancelled. You have been automatically rebooked on flight xxx to St Louis TOMORROW."
At this point hysterical laughter took over.
My kids looked at me smiling.
Gradually, their smiles turned into looks of concern.
I confirmed the date with my driver.
I confirmed the date again.
Then I played the message so the kids could hear and confirm it.
It was true.
The driver offered to take us back to the hotel.
The kids looked even more concerned now.
"Umm...Mom? Are you really thinking about driving to Missouri?"
"No sweet babies. We ARE driving."
According to mapquest it was only 1350 miles or so.
We got this.
Seemed pretty obvious that God didn't want us flying home, anyway.
Now I love a good road trip....but I like to pack and prepare.
This wasn't what I had planned.
We had no DVD player.
We had no atlas with carefully highlighted routes.
We had no extra clean clothes.
(and all of our gently worn clothes smelled like "everything" bagels.)
We had a great deal on a rental car.
We had a close-by gas station to purchase a map.
We had some serious moxie.
We had to get out of New York City.
And you know what?
We had a darn great time.
An unexpected adventure that created precious memories.
358 juicy drop pops...
7 nights in hotels....
3 movies replaying on a kindle...
4 new pair of underwear at Walmart in West Virginia...
48 pounds of gas station junk food...
I'll take it.